Right out of the womb, I had a lot of medical problems. I was a sick baby, and my parents had to spend a lot of time seeing to my needs. I was in and out of the hospital. Maybe it was all too much pressure and responsibility for my father. He took off when I was four or five months old. As a consequence, I donít really know who my genetic father was. My Mother accuses him of being a jerk, and in the same breath will tell me that Iím a lot like him. I have to take her word for it.
Throughout my life, my grandparents actively participated in raising me. Either they considered it their God given right to do so, or just felt that my Mother wasnít completely capable of properly doing it. They may have been right. Many times my Mom would insist that I was an accident. Usually, sheíd tell me this when she was angry at me for something stupid that Iíd done, but it rang true. I donít think she was prepared to have child.
My Mom met my real dad Ė I call him that because he actually participated in raising me- in 1970 or 1971, sometime after he returned from Vietnam. He made a living laying carpet and was damn good at it. Jim was kind enough to adopt me, and I dropped the last name of Peterson in favor of his. We moved around Washington State for a while, before settling in Everett for about nine years. During this period I lived at my grandparents in Smokey Point for about half the time.
As a young child, I was ignorant of the seriousness of my situation, or even that I was any different than any other kid. I thought that every kid had problems with their health and that was just the way life was. Fortunately, I had an excessive amount of energy and never let my health problems tie me down.
Like any other kid, at the age of five I started kindergarten. At that time I actually liked school. I do remember that I hated to come home and take those naps in the middle of the afternoon. It seemed like such a waste of time.
Unlike most boys my age, I found the opposite sex very intriguing. Most boys, until they reach the age of ten or eleven find women disgusting. Even in kindergarten I found them fascinating. I spent a lot of energy figuring out ways that I could spend time with Lisa, a cute little kindergartener with long blonde hair like mine. Did I mention that my parents were hippies?
Still, age five wasnít going to be all fun and games. I had an enormous set back and ended up spending two weeks in Childrenís Orthopedic Hospital. They ran thorough tests on me. As of yet, no one realized that I had Cystic Fibrosis. For many years, the doctors thought that I had a horrible case of asthma and treated me correspondingly. I carried an inhaler with me as my constant companion.
Every so often, a kind doctor would give me a dead line. They always spoke in hushed tones to my mother or grandmother, as if I couldnít understand them or hear them from six feet away. "Chances are he wonít live past nine," said one. Nine years came and went. "Chances are that he wonít live past twelve," said another. My twelfth birthday came and went. I was still alive.
Around age fourteen, things were rocky at home and at school. I wore leather and Leviís and was a bit of a rebel. I didnít fit into any clique, so ended up hanging out with the only people who werenít judgmental, and who would accept me for who I was. The stoners.
A stoner, for anyone unfamiliar with the term, is derived from the word stoned, which means wasted, zoned, or not with it due to the self administration of, generally, illegal drugs.
I met Mike when I was going to Everett High School. He had a laid back slacker mentality, yet was charismatic enough to be the unappointed leader of the stoner set. Also, he was willing to accept September Peterson for who he was. He didnít care if I had problems at home. He didnít care if I didnít fit in with any of the cliques at school. He and his pals seemed willing to accept the fact that I was an individual, and didnít feel the need to force me to conform to their own personal standards.